CSOs call on govt's, brands & suppliers to urgently mitigate health & economic impacts on 60 million garment workers bearing brunt of COVID-19 crisis

Since the outbreak of COVID-19, millions of garment workers in fashion supply chains have borne the brunt of the impacts of the crisis. Garment factories in producing countries have reduced or ceased altogether operations as a result of raw materials shortages from China, and major brands and retailers postponing or cancelling orders as clothing stores in developed market economies have been shut by lockdowns. As a result, millions of factory workers have been laid off or temporarily suspended, often without legally-mandated pay or severance. In some countries where factories remain in operation, workers are forced to continue work in factories where employers are unwilling to ensure adequate precautions, leaving workers, their families and communities at risk of infection.

Statements made by civil society organisations and trade unions, calling on brands, governments and suppliers to urgently mitigate the health and economic impacts of the crisis on garment workers, can be found below.

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18 May 2020

Central America: Unions call on govt.s & brands to provide humanitarian support for 80,000 garment workers during COVID-19

Author: Ivan Castano Freedman, just-style

“Unions seek support for 80,000 Central America garment workers”, 15 May 2020

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Nearly 50,000 in El Salvador, 26,000 in Honduras and 6,000 in Nicaragua: that’s how many workers Central American garment factories are laying off with no paycheck, trade union officials say. They are stepping up calls for governments and fashion brands to help compensate and provide a livelihood for impoverished sewers until the pandemic recedes…

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6 May 2020

Labour groups demand garment brands provide humanitarian relief to workers in crisis alongside their existing supply chain obligations

Author: Global Labor Justice

"All eyes on fast fashion: New rules for a new era of supply chains"

..All Eyes on Fast Fashion — New Rules for a New Era of Supply Chains is Global Labor Justice’s web-based tool to redefine the rules for global supply chains to create living wage jobs and transform how corporate accountability is defined and enforced in the global garment supply chain.  As workers, suppliers, and brands work together to rebuild supply chain capacity in the fast fashion sector, we must create a new era of supply chains where brands and their investors are held accountable for responsible business practices that fundamentally shift the imbalance of power and massive inequalities that have long plagued the global fashion industry. 

All Eyes on Fast Fashion kicks off with a demand to fifteen major fast fashion brands for a Supply Chain Relief Contribution equal to sixty days of income paid to workers through the suppliers who directly employ them. GLJ has written to ask fifteen major fast fashion brands to pay 2% of their annual sourcing towards immediate relief for supply chain workers, developed by our partner, the Asia Floor Wage AllianceThe SRC is a relief contribution and in no way substitutes brands’ existing and ongoing supply chain obligations to pay for orders given and produced, to not cancel orders, to not seek discounts in an already under-costed supply chain, and to act accountability in relation to any future cases of downsizing, retrenchment and closure...

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4 May 2020

Labour Day: Cambodian unions call on apparel brands to commit to pay for all placed, in-production & completed orders

Author: Cambodian Alliance of Trade Unions

Cambodian trade unions May Day demands

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29 April 2020

Labour groups produce guidelines for the safe operation of garment factories during COVID-19 pandemic

Author: Worker Rights Consortium & Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network

"Effective Infection Control Practices and Policies for Operating Apparel and Textile Factories", April 2020

The following guidelines relate to the safe operation of apparel and textile factories during the Covid-19 pandemic... The guidelines have two sections: one for facilities outside the United States and the other for facilities within the United States. Each section consists of immediate work practices needed to protect workers from infection on site and the new and revised workplace policies necessary to implement the infection control measures in an effective and sustainable manner...

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28 April 2020

Website brings together fundraising & advocacy campaigns supporting garment workers through COVID-19 pandemic

Author: GarmentWorkersCovidRelief.org


... The livelihoods of millions of garment workers around the world have been threatened by the economic and social fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Global brands have cancelled orders, abandoning factory workers in a time of dire need. Other workers are manufacturing face masks and PPE in unsafe conditions. This website aims to bring together the numerous fundraising and advocacy campaigns in process by the Clean Clothes Campaign, International Labor Rights Forum, the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles, Asia Floor Wage Alliance, ReMake, and more under one roof, so that the wider public can understand the issues and help garment workers through this crisis...

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20 April 2020

Asia: Garment worker unions call on brands to pay garment workers' relief contribution in response to COVID-19 humanitarian crisis

Author: Asia Floor Wage Alliance

"Brands' Responsibility in COVID-19 Humanitarian Crisis: Contribute to Garment Workers' Relief", April 2020

Garment workers in Asia... who in the best of circumstances, survive under high-risk, poverty-level working and living conditions are least equipped to bear the brunt of [the COVID-19 crisis]...

[W]e propose that brands make a one-time Supply-chain Relief Contribution for each worker in their supplier factories, as a requirement of responsible business practices. Based on the existing data on labour cost, we propose brands calculate their Supply-chain Relief Contribution as an additional 2% of the total sourcing by the brand from the preceding 12 months at the respective factory. The SRC should be structured as a pass through from the brands to the suppliers, payable directly to the workers. If brands honour this Contribution for their supplier factories, each worker would get a modest but important Contribution to help them mitigate the most extreme effects of the... crisis...

The SRC is a relief contribution and in no way substitutes brands’ existing and ongoing supply chain obligations to pay for orders given and produced, to not cancel orders, to not seek discounts in an already under-costed supply chain, and so on. It also does not substitute for obligations to pay severance contributions...

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14 April 2020

Clean Clothes Campaign outlines demands on brands & govts. to mitigate effects of COVID-19 crisis on global garment supply chains

Author: Clean Clothes Campaign

"COVID-19 Short Term Demands in defense of Garment Workers in Global Supply Chains", 9 April 2020

...Payment of wages All apparel, textile, footwear, and logistics workers... employed at the onset of the crisis... should be paid... legally mandated wages and benefits, including severance payments and arrears. Emergency relief funds and financial support packages... should be set up with contributions from IFIs, donor governments as well as brands and retailers...

Worker health and safety and public health ... [F]irms... who... resume production... must comply with World Health Organization guidance and... follow other... guidance... to prevent and respond to the spread of COVID-19 at workplaces... Garment workers... should be provided with additional labour protection including childcare facilities or allowances, medical insurance, and hazard pay...

Right to refuse work Workers who stop working given COVID-19 risks must not be excluded from unemployment, severance, or... benefits during the crisis or be penalized with loss of contracts or work when the crisis subsides...

Social protection floors Governments in garment producer countries need to... establish and maintain social protection floors and improve national social security schemes... [and] work with manufacturers to establish transparent cost-sharing...

Return and recovery post-pandemic ... [B]rands and retailers should ensure that suppliers pay workers living wages and social benefits... [and] will need to rethink and change the current pricing model and underlying business model. These changes include order stability... timely payments of orders, and full respect for workers' rights... Responsible exit plans of brands... should be considered temporary and include discussion of return to suppliers once the crisis subsides... Governments that house the headquarters of lead firms should implement effective regulatory reform... regulating unfair commercial and trade practices that lead to human rights abuses in their global supply chains...

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8 April 2020

USA: 30 CSOs call on brands & garment manufacturers to implement essential worker health protection & workers’ rights measures during COVID-19 crisis, in joint letter

Author: Garment Worker Center, International Labor Rights Forum & others

"Covid-19 Related Worker Protections Needed for Garment/PPE Production in US", 3 April 2020

In a joint letter together with 28 other organizations, the International Labor Rights Forum and the Garment Worker Center in Los Angeles... shared recommendations on worker health protection and workers’ rights measures for brands/manufacturers producing or sourcing apparel, textiles, and/or PPE from factories in the United States. The letter was shared with dozens of garment manufacturers and fashion brands...

The recommendations include the CDC’s Interim Guidance for Businesses and Employers to Plan and Respond to Coronavirus Disease... and additional standards such as:

  • paid breaks for hand-washing
  • paid training on all Covid-related safeguards
  • paid sick leave for the duration of Covid-19 related illness, and at least 14 days of paid leave going forward
  • unemployment benefits or other forms of income replacement that include workers irrespective of immigration or independent contractor status, or their employer's failure to register them as employees.

... [It] also calls on companies that are reducing orders from factories, or that have been required to close operations... to pay in full on orders for which material has been purchased or production has already begun; to ensure unemployment benefits reach all their workers affected by job loss; and to ensure that when factories reopen that first-hire priority is given to laid-off workers to their previous posts and deadlines for orders are reassessed to prevent workers from working mandatory overtime.

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6 April 2020

Pakistan: Human Rights Watch calls on authorities to address the economic consequences of COVID-19 for vulnerable workers

Author: Human Rights Watch

“Pakistan: Workers Face Health, Economic Risks”, 01 April 2020

Pakistani authorities should take urgent steps to mitigate the economic impact of COVID-19 on its most vulnerable workers, Human Rights Watch said today. [The outbreak] will have enormous economic consequences for garment and textile workers, domestic workers, home-based workers, and other workers in low-income households.

The Pakistan government should adopt measures protecting workers affected by COVID-19 from suffering loss of income that would push them further into poverty and deter them from self-isolating to contain the spread of the virus.

… Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch [said] “The economically marginalized are among the most vulnerable groups affected by COVID-19, and the government should urgently find ways to protect them.”

… All factories not producing essential items have been closed. Experts estimate that between 12.3 million and 18.5 million people in various sectors may lose their jobs…

Among the factories ordered to shut down are textile and garment factories that employ Pakistan’s largest industrial workforce. …

A lack of written labor contracts, inadequate legal protections, and poor enforcement of labor laws and regulations could heighten the problems during this crisis …The use of verbal contracts means that most do not have paid sick leave, social security, or health insurance, leaving them particularly vulnerable during … the pandemic.

These economic shutdowns have a disproportionate effect on women workers, especially home-based workers and domestic workers…

The government should, to the maximum extent of its available resources, provide low-wage workers with assistance to help offset the intense economic hardship and food insecurity from this situation...

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2 April 2020

South Asia: HomeNet Charter of Demands calls for interventions to protect home based workers from fall out of COVID-19 crisis

Author: HomeNet South Asia

“COVID-19: Impact on Home-Based Workers in South Asia, Charter of Demands by HomeNet South Asia”, 31 March 2020

South Asia, while not one of the first regions to be hit by the virus, has seen a steady climb in cases…Leading international organisations and health experts have recognised that South Asia is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic due to the large swathes of population that live in constricted spaces and the lack of widespread and competent medical facilities…

Apart from the health epidemic, nations, from the South Asian region, are also staring at an economic epidemic … [i]t is, again, the most vulnerable that face the most economic uncertainty. Without the backing of social security nets, informal workers are at the risk of slipping into a vicious cycle of poverty without access to income, food supplies, water and sanitation, efficient healthcare and reliable and feasible financial support.

Within the category of informal workers, home-based workers (HBWs) are some of the most vulnerable … It is estimated that South Asia is home to over 50 million home-based workers, a majority of whom are women.

Short-Term, Immediate Interventions

  1. Income support – including cash transfers and cash handouts …equal to the monthly minimum wage of the country/ state … for at least three months …
  2. Free rations … to all home-based workers for at least three months …
  3. Door-to-door delivery of services, when needed, including rations, soaps, basic medicines and other protective gear.
  4. Installation of mobile washbasins with water and soap in all low-income communities.
  5. Training and counselling services offered at local clinics, schools and other community spaces to combat the virus.
  6. Access to free-of-cost tests and healthcare facilities at public hospitals.
  7. Disseminate reliable information on emergency numbers and nearby health points to communities …
  8. Access to dedicated emergency services in case of domestic violence or other legal emergencies.

Long-Term Sustained Intervention

  1. Recognition of home-based workers, through policies and laws, will be key in protecting them during adverse situations like the coronavirus pandemic.
  2. Setting up of a Recovery Fund for informal workers including women home-based workers.
  3. Promote local economies through no interest loans and tax exemptions that are extended to home-based workers’ cooperatives and producer companies.
  4. Ensure employers (brands and large corporations) recognise home-based workers as part of their supply chains and that they extend minimum wages and social protection to home-based workers.
  5. Improve access to housing, basic services, public health facilities and childcare for home-based workers

Download the full document here